As the industry has pivoted event marketing from physical events to virtual ones, this question comes up in almost every conversation and the answer isn’t as straightforward. The reality is the goals of your event play a critical role in determining how you should structure your pricing to maximize results and revenue.
Analyzing the trends we have seen across the industry and combining this with data we have gathered from delivering virtual events ranging in size from 1000’s to 100,000’s of attendees, we’ve constructed the following breakdown of average performance for spring 2020 events. These ranges give an understanding of how pricing can have an impact on total registrations and event engagement.
This is a 1:1 pricing structure with your physical event – charging the same amount as your physical event ticket price for a virtual event. The impact we have seen is that the number of virtual attendees willing to pay that amount drops by more than half. While your overall registrations will not equal a physical event, the engagement from that audience is significantly higher than the group that registers for a free event. Essentially, using this structure highlights which group is most engaged with your brand, loyalty, and the likelihood of this group showing up next year (which is significantly higher than any of the other groups). For premium content and experiences, using a full conference pay structure would make great sense for those marketing to loyal attendees.
In this pricing structure, the event content and experiences are broken down into channel tracks, allowing attendees to purchase a selection of items from the event. This is similar to what you might expect to see from a cable company where you can buy groups of content based on your preferences. The price for the channels is a fraction of the normal full conference rate but tailored to a specific audience/content allowing for attendees to get right to value immediately. The lower price point and the mix of content experiences provide a solid balance between total registrations and overall event engagement.
A La Carte Sessions
This pricing structure usually is combined with free sessions in terms of the registration journey. Attendees are able to purchase individual sessions for a nominal fee ($25-$100 a session) and still engage with a variety of free sessions. In terms of session participation, the paid-for sessions at this price tend to get a little lift in total participants and receive more engagement at those sessions than free ones. By having free sessions alongside paid ones, it conveys to the attendee that the paid sessions are a premium experience worth engaging with. Attendees tend to follow through with participating in those paid-for sessions at a higher rate.
Free sessions tend to drive significant increases in event registrations and event marketers can expect to see more than four times physical registrations for the event. The bad news is that a majority of these new registrations are not following through with attending/participating in the event. We can hypothesize on a number of reasons as to why this happens but the reality is that this is just common for digital marketing in general. Webinars historically net 30-40% of registrations and it makes sense virtual events would be in the same range. However, even though the engagement percentages are lower, the increased volume of registrations will net greater numbers of sessions participated in than any of the other categories and builds a marketable list for future events. This use method is great for building brand awareness and reaching audiences that can’t or won’t typically come to a paid physical event.
A fully free event, where all sessions and event activities are free to attendees has netted the largest boost in total registrations from a physical event. Many of these totally free events have grown registrations four to six times physical event registrations. We have also seen the formats for these types of events change from a few dedicated days to structured weekly activities for a number of weeks. Each week tends to have a draw (special keynote, speaker, or performance) to draw the attendees back to the event. This longer period of the event period, on-demand sessions, and recurring attractions provide a greater opportunity for attendees to participate and over time. The engagement for longer free events tops that of traditional event formats.
Which Type Is Right For Me?
Therein lies the challenge for event professionals… Do you make everything free and go for massive registration numbers knowing the exposure could have a future benefit or do you maintain your pricing structure to retain that premium experience for your loyal attendees? The trend has been to do a free event and overall, the enterprises who have gone down this route have been extremely happy with the results. As we look forward to Fall events and beyond, hopefully, these data points highlight the advantages and disadvantages of each pricing model so that as you plan your event, stakeholders’ expectations will be fully aligned with your strategy.
Some Gotchas To Watch Out For…
Before selecting a pricing model, ensure that your registration and virtual event solution can support the model. Below are some key requirements to support any of the above models.
- Registration Paths – Ability to intelligently route attendees to the right packages, price points, and discounts.
- Payment Processing – Ability to securely collect payment in the currency of your audience, collect and follow local tax laws and properly invoice for attendee record keeping.
- Authentication – Ability to prevent unauthorized attendance to event content (paid or free sessions).
- Engagement Tracking – Ability to track attendance, duration, and participation at sessions and virtual activities.
- Attendee Profile – Ability to see engagement for an attendee across all event sessions and activities in a single attendee record.
- Event Performance – Ability to compare real-time event performance to prior events and measure your event against industry benchmarks.